On Thanksgiving, before we dive into the turkey, my family takes a moment to voice why we are thankful. Last year my children learned the difference between a need and a want, and we spoke of the needs for which we are so grateful. We spoke about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and how once one’s basic physiological needs are met (food, warmth, shelter, and air), they can focus on the secondary safety needs. And how once we feel safe, we can focus on the next three tiers: the need to belong and feel loved, the need to feel accomplishment and esteem, and the need to be fulfilled as we aim for self-actualization.
But many families across our city are struggling to meet their basic needs on an ongoing basis. On a daily basis. In this great city overflowing with resources, we have families struggling for food, warmth, and shelter. Parents work tirelessly to ensure that their children have a home, three meals a day, and proper clothing to survive NY’s brutal elements. When food and water are not a given, shelter and clothing become secondary needs.
This past Monday, Change for Kids was able to fulfill one of the basic needs for the students at Brighter Choice Elementary School: warmth.
I am proud to announce that CFK recently partnered with Operation Warm and Nordstroms to provide each student at BCCS with a new winter coat. In addition, Operation Warm will be providing coats to the 1,000 students in transient housing at all of our partner schools. Not a lightly used coat, a new coat that they could write their name in and call their own. A new coat that is rainproof and windproof. And we couldn’t have done it without Operation Warm and Nordstrom’s joining our community. Operation Warm started twenty years ago by donating 58 coats to the local church, and this year will be giving away their 3 millionth coat. In the words of Operation Warm’s founder, Dick Sanford, “Look around. You can always help someone. It is our responsibility to help each other survive.”
For three magical hours Monday at BCCS, students filed into the gym class-by-class. Each student was matched with a Nordstrom’s volunteer, and each student was made to feel safe and loved as they received their new coat. The smiles on their faces were heart-warming. And in return, the students inspired our volunteers. It is not often that one stands in a room where every single person has a smile ear-to-ear, and every single person is connecting with another human being.
As Zareta Ricks, our Director of Corporate Strategy and Engagement, gave the day’s closing remarks, the following stood out to me. Addressing the team of Nordstrom volunteers, our Operation Warm partners, and the BCCS and CFK staffs, she spoke about how we must not forget our students’ emotional needs. “We can focus on their intellectual needs, but we must also focus on their hearts. We tell our students that they have a whole community that loves them and supports them, but they can be skeptical. But today that community was real.” She went on to address the impact the volunteers had on each and every student, and how the impact of a moment can reverberate throughout a community. As Zareta eloquently stated, “The impact doesn’t end with our students. This gift of time and energy will impact the morale of our teachers, our administrators, and the broader school community.”
So this Thanksgiving, the CFK team and I are thankful for the 300 coats our students received this week, and the additional thousand coats in the coming weeks. We are thankful for our partners like Operation Warm, who also aspire to ensure our students’ needs, basic and emotional, are met. We are thankful for our corporate partners, such as Nordstrom’s who underwrote the cost of the coats and supplied the volunteers to make our students feel special. We are thankful for our individual donors whose funds allow us to provide other critical resources to our schools. We are thankful for our volunteers who work with us, side-by-side, to make our schools more beautiful, to keep our students safe while our parents attend classes, to teach our students how to write resumes, about financial literacy, how to tie a tie. We are thankful for you. For without you, we wouldn’t be a powerful community that can help our city’s underserved schools thrive.